RANCHI: Over 40,05,200 voters on Friday (December 20) will seal the electoral fate of 237 candidates, including 29 women, in the fifth and final phase of Jharkhand Assembly elections, covering 16 seats in six districts of Sahebganj, Pakur, Dumka, Jamtara, Deoghar, and Godda.
The Santhal Pargana region in the 2014 Assembly election had given the BJP as well as the JMM six seats each, while the Congress could win three and the JVM won merely one seat. The BJP had dented this JMM bastion, and its candidate Sunil Soren also defeated JMM president Shibu Soren in Dumka in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
The constituencies where the fourth phase of election is being held today are- 1-Rajmahal; 2-Boiro (ST); 3-Barhait (ST); 4-Litipara (ST); 5-Pakur; 6-Maheshpur (ST); 7-Sikaripara (ST); 8-Dumka (ST); 9-Jama (ST); 10-Jarmundi; 11-Nala; 12-Jamtara; 13-Sarath; 14-Poreyahat; 15-Godda; 16-Mahagama.
The high profile candidates in the fray include Raj Paliwar, Louis Marandi and Randhir Singh, all Ministers in the Raghubar Das cabinet. Hemant Soren, the Chief Ministerial candidate of the Mahagathbandhan (Congress-JMM-RJD combine), is contesting from Dumka as well as Barhet.
Of these 237 candidates, 58 (24%) have criminal cases against them; 42 (18%) are facing serious criminal cases, while there are 51 (22%) croreparti candidates with an average assets of Rs 1.24 crore, according to the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) data.
According to reports coming in, with uncertainty looming large over the next government, as neither BJP is anywhere close to its claim of "Abki baar 65 paar" and the Congress-JMM-RJD alliance also tipped not to cross the 41-seat mark in the 81-member Jharkhand Assembly, two individuals -- a prominent industrialist and a sitting Rajya Sabha MP -- is reported to hold the key as to who will form the next government in the mineral-rich state.
The state BJP leaders reportedly believe that the saffron party is likely to be restrained in the bracket of 32 to 36 seats with 42 being the cut-off mark.
In such a scenario, two players are stated to come out as crucial -- Babulal Marandi and Sudesh Mahto. Marandi is the first Chief Minister of Jharkhand. His Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (Prajatantrik), which stayed out of the NDA or the UPA, is expected to fetch somewhere between 9 and 11 seats.
On the other hand, Sudesh Mahto`s All Jharkhand Students Union (AJSU), which split from the NDA just before the Assembly elections, had won 5 seats in the last Assembly polls and is expected to retain as much.
If neither the Congress-JMM-RJD alliance or the BJP comes close to the magic number of 42, the concerned industrialist is likely to step in to stitch an alliance. Sources said the industrialist is keen on Hemant Soren as the next Jharkhand Chief Minister.
Over 62.4 per cent voter turnout was recorded at 15 Assembly seats covering four districts that went to polls in the fourth phase of elections in Jharkhand on December 16. The third phase of elections were held in 17 Assembly constituencies covering eight districts on December 12. The second phase of elections took place in 20 Assembly constituencies on December 7, while the first phase of voting took place on November 30. The counting of votes will take place on December 23.
(With Agency Inputs)